WASHINGTON -- In the spring of 2004, Peabody, Mass., got drenched with rain, which flooded the downtown area. After the storm, then-Gov. Mitt Romney asked President George W. Bush to declare Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk Counties federal disaster areas, according to the Boston Globe.
That fall, the state legislature proposed spending $5.7 million on a flood prevention project to protect against future floods. Those funds would be matched by $22 million in federal money.
Romney vetoed it. This week, Romney has come under fire for suggesting that the federal government get out of the business of disaster relief. But his record in Massachusetts doesn't lend much support to the suggestion that states can handle it alone.
During the time of the Peabody fight, John Barrett, then the Democratic mayor of North Adams, was the vice president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association. He said the issue of flooding in Peabody was critical and that local officials had reached out to the legislature for help. "Every time it rained, it wiped out their downtown," Barrett told HuffPost.
Barrett chalked Romney's veto of the Peabody project up to a lack of familiarity with infrastructure in the state.
"This was not unusual for him. He didn’t understand infrastructure improvements. It was just the bottom line. He never visited communities. He never understood the issues. He never sat down with mayors or city managers. He never understood why those things were in the budget," Barrett said. "That money was requested by locals. It was a major league problem.”
Dan Bosley, a former Democratic state representative in Western Massachusetts, agreed. "I think it was just the fact that Romney didn't understand these issues." He said he never saw Romney out with a rain slicker checking on towns like current Gov. Deval Patrick has done.
"I don't think it was because he was heartless, he just didn't know. That's how he ran his state," Bosley said. "His understanding of why you have government, I don't think he ever had it."
The Boston Globe reported that September that local officials were outraged, and doubly insulted that Romney claimed to have vetoed the money due to a lack of sufficient information.
Peabody officials yesterday lashed out at Governor Mitt Romney's decision to block $5.7 million to pay for a flood control project in downtown Peabody. Romney blocked the money as part of $76 million in election-year spending he vetoed last week. At a State House press conference Friday, Romney said he had tried to contact Peabody officials to obtain more information about the funding, but was unable to reach anyone. Yesterday, state Senator Frederick E. Berry said ... "We hand-delivered all kinds of information. They had all the information they needed ... I don’t want to use the word 'lie,' but ... how he could say he didn't get the information? That's not true." Yesterday, Romney's communications director, Eric Ferhnstrom, said the governor stands by his statement. "Governor Romney is not a rubber stamp for the expenditure of taxpayer funds. If there is no information to support a particular expenditure, our inclination is to be cautious and to wait until a rationale is put forward," Ferhnstrom said. "In this case, we endeavored to get answers to our questions but none were forthcoming. We would be happy to take another look and if it appears to be a necessary and worthwhile expense we will include it in the next" spending bill the administration proposes.
In May 2006, Peabody flooded again, and local officials quickly blamed Romney, and slammed him for doing a tour of the disaster area. As the Associated Press reported:
Romney's critics saw more than a little political hype in the media blitz. "The first thing I wouldn't do is showboat for the national cameras and say I was going to prevent looting on the North Shore," Democratic candidate for governor Chris Gabrieli said ... Critics also faulted Romney's 2004 veto of a $5.7 million flood control project in Peabody, hit hard by the rains, and his request for just half a million dollars for the state's dam safety office. Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Therese Murray, D-Plymouth said, "Peabody today is under water" because of Romney's action. Romney defended the veto, saying he wasn't given a full explanation of how the money would be spent.
Also on HuffPost:
President Barack Obama
In a hastily organized press briefing at the White House, Obama said Monday that his race with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is the furthest thing from his mind as the East Coast braces for what could be its worst storm in history. "I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I am worried about the impact on families. I am worried about the impact on our first responders," he said. "The election will take care of itself next week." ... He also sent out a campaign email on Monday urging supporters to heed advice from local authorities and extending an early thank you to first responders. “Michelle and I are keeping everyone in the affected areas in our thoughts and prayers. Be safe,” reads the email, signed by Obama. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/hurricane-sandy-obama_n_2042403.html?1351610452">HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery and Lynne Peeples </a></em>
Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney took a moment in an overflow room ahead of a campaign rally Monday to express his concern for those in the path of Hurricane Sandy and encourage the people of Ohio to do what they could to help those out east. “I want to mention that our hearts and prayers are with all the people in the storm's path," he said in Avon Lake, Ohio. "Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury." He went on to encourage those who can afford it to make a donation to the Red Cross. "If there are other ways that you can help, please take advantage of them because there will be a lot of people that are going to be looking for help and the people in Ohio have big hearts, so we're expecting you to follow through and help out," he said. Romney concluded the rally by echoing his comments from the overflow room. "This looks like another time we all need to come together," he said. -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/mitt-romney-hurricane-sandy_n_2039620.html?1351610466">HuffPost's Elise Foley</a></em>
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) continued his praise of President Barack Obama's work responding to Hurricane Sandy, using a press briefing Monday evening to note that he appreciated the "leadership" Obama was showing in the emergency. Christie, a prominent surrogate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said that he and Obama had a private phone conversation on Monday to discuss how the federal government could help New Jersey. He said that Obama told Christie that he could call him directly over the next 48 hours if the state government had issues with federal response to the hurricane in New Jersey. “I appreciate that type of leadership," Christie said of Obama. The Republican governor said most of the call centered on Obama's concern for New Jersey and then he continued to heap praise on the president, saying Obama's work has been "proactive." Christie shortened a campaign trip for Romney to return to New Jersey to handle the storm response. Christie started his praise of Obama during press briefings on Sunday, when he said "appreciated" Obama's outreach to him and the governors of other states being impacted by Hurricane Sandy. During a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Christie described another call he had with Obama and said that the president and his aides have been working to benefit New Jersey. “We appreciate the president’s efforts in that regard," Christie said earlier Monday. "He and his staff worked tremendously hard.” -- <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/chris-christie-sandy-obama_n_2041673.html">HuffPost's John Celock</a></em>
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Newark Mayor Cory Booker
Former Vice President Al Gore
This week, our nation has anxiously watched as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast and caused widespread damage--affecting millions. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help. Please consider donating or volunteering for your local aid organizations. The images of Sandy’s flooding brought back memories of a similar--albeit smaller scale-- event in Nashville just two years ago. There, unprecedented rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc and submerging sections of my hometown. For me, the Nashville flood was a milestone. For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a similar event: a time when the climate crisis—which is often sequestered to the far reaches of our everyday awareness became a reality. While the storm that drenched Nashville was not a tropical cyclone like Hurricane Sandy, both storms were strengthened by the climate crisis. Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. Hurricane Sandy, and the Nashville flood, were reminders of just that. Other climate-related catastrophes around the world have carried the same message to hundreds of millions. Sandy was also affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy's storm surge was worsened by a century of sea level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse. Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
"Our thoughts and prayers rest with the families, friends, and loved ones of all those who have lost their lives in the course of Hurricane Sandy, and our hearts go out to the millions of Americans waking up to destruction and devastation in their homes and communities today. "We are all grateful to the rescue workers and first responders working around-the-clock to save lives, restore power, and deal with the immediate aftermath of the storm. Federal, state, and local authorities have worked hand-in-hand to prepare for and respond to this natural disaster, and we will continue to do so as Americans begin to take stock of the damage, recover, and rebuild. "All Members of Congress stand ready to offer our aid and assistance to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. As we have done in the past, the American people will stand united to confront the impact of this storm and start the work of recovery."
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio)
Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)
“Hurricane Sandy hit New York and the Northeast hard last night and will complicate life in our region for the coming days. I am astounded at what I have seen in my own congressional district: flooding throughout Coney Island, Battery Park City, and other areas; widespread power outages; felled trees everywhere you look; and some very tragic fatalities. I am grateful to our local responders and laborers, who are doing a tremendous job on emergency response. And, through the President’s declaration of New York as a major disaster area, we will be able to immediately allocate FEMA funds to begin to repair the billions of dollars in damage locally and bring relief to New Yorkers whose lives have been turned upside down.”